Helping Your Teen with Depression
It can be difficult at times to distinguish between the moods of teens and true depression. They can display a lot of the same characteristics, but where moods come and go like the wind, depression stays, and often worsens.
If you suspect your teen is depressed, it can be a very worrying time for a parent. How do you approach the subject, and once it’s been discussed and you’ve established that your teen is suffering from depression, what can you do to help them?
The symptoms are much the same as moodiness, but you should worry if they remain for a fortnight or longer; that’s much more than a mood.
Depressed teens will have erratic sleep patterns, either sleeping much longer or much less, have no energy or desire to do things, and be edgy or angry much of the time. Their eating habits will change, often just pecking at food (although, conversely, they could also have appetites much heartier than usual), they’ll feel things are bad in their lives and unlikely to improve, have low self-esteem, and they may even entertain fantasies about hurting or killing themselves.
Their school work will suffer, with marks and concentration falling rapidly. They might end relationships with friends and turn readily on family members. Their physical health might be affected, with constant tiredness, and they might start using drugs and alcohol to try and feel better. If untreated, severe depression could lead to teens self-harming or committing suicide.
How Do You Know?
For a parent, finding where a teen has crossed the line from moodiness into depression can be a tricky business. If you suspect your teen is depressed, sit down and talk to them. If you have a good relationship, then it might well be possible to have them open up. Avoid direct questions about depression, and ask instead how they feel about different things – school, friends, and their own lives. There’s a strong chance they might not even realise they’re depressed.
If, in your judgement, your teen is depressed, there are things you can do to help. Sit down and only then discuss depression with them its symptoms, and ask if they feel it could be a problem for them.
Vast numbers of people suffer from depression at some point in their lives, and teens have a higher incidence of it than most age groups. You should have you teen talk to your GP, who can make an evaluation and suggest courses of action.
Counselling of some kind can often help, whether it’s individual, group or family therapy – different types are appropriate for different people – and over the course of time can produce significant results.
Medication is also an option, but be wary before agreeing to it for your teen. Talk to your GP about the effects and side effects of medications and the dosage. Medications can have an immediate effect, but coming off them can cause problems.
Sometimes having your teen keep a diary can help – simply letting their feelings out can be therapeutic. Tempting as it might be, don’t read the diary unless you’re truly worried they might hurt themselves or commit suicide. In that case, reading it can prevent further problems.
Self Harm And Suicide
If your teen admits to real thoughts of self harm or suicide, you need to act immediately to help them. At that point counselling is necessary, and possibly even a stay in hospital.
The good thing is that for most depressed teens, the feelings do pass as they grow. But whilst they’re going through them, your help can make all the difference. Be involved, be patient, be understanding.